ABDUL RESORTThree beaches in Malaysia have made it into the top 50 beaches in the world in a survey conducted by renowned international news network CNN on the World’s 100 best beaches.

The three beaches are Tanjung Rhu in Langkawi, Kedah (ranked at No.49); Juara Beach in Tioman Island, Pahang (ranked at No.21); and Perhentian Kecil island, Terengganu (ranked at No.13).

(One New Zealand beach – Karekare in West Auckland – made it into the top 50 with a ranking of 38.)

Tanjung Rhu in Langkawi, Kedah

According to the CNN report, “Most tourists on Langkawi flock to Pantai Cenang beach, but the quieter Tanjung Rhu has an earthy beauty and serene atmosphere. The long beach area is surrounded by ancient limestone caves, rippling waterways and dense mangroves.”

Ms Ahmad adds that visitors could also enjoy breathtaking views of Tanjung Rhu and other Langkawi’s beaches and bays from atop Gunung Mat Cincang, one of the island’s highest mountains.

Juara Beach, Tioman Island, Pahang

“Less developed and less polished than Thailand, Tioman Island’s Juara Beach brings an all-natural, quiet vibe to the beach experience. This isn’t the place for parties or nightlife, unless you like your parties hushed and your nightlife non-human,” quoted CNN.

Ms Ahmad says Tioman Island is also a great place for adrenalin junkies who want a rock-climbing challenge at Nenek Semukut Mountain.

Perhentian Kecil Island, Terengganu

CNN wrote, “Malaysia’s Perhentian Islands are to beach bums what Kobe beef is to carnivores; once you’ve experienced it, nothing else quite matches up. The two main islands are the backpacker-happy Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Small Perhentian Island), and Pulau Perhentian Besar (Big Perhentian Island), which has slightly more expensive accommodations.”

The highlight of Pulau Perhentian Kecil, according to CNN, is the blue water which invariably contain turtles and small sharks.

More Fun in the Sun

Besides these three beaches, Malaysia has hundreds of tropical islands dotting its waters and countless picturesque beaches lining its shores, making it one of the region’s top destinations for sun, sea and sand holidays. Malaysia is blessed with a tropical climate all year round and unparalleled natural beauty both on land and underwater. Here are the best beaches and islands, according to the locals themselves.

Sipadan Island, Sabah

Sipadan is an internationally famous dive site surrounded by the Sulawesi Sea. The geographic position of Sipadan at the Indo-Pacific Basin (the centre of the richest marine habitat in the world) makes it a paradise for divers. The seascape is decorated with huge gorgonian sea fans, barrel sponges and gigantic soft tree corals. Steep walls form a stunning backdrop while pelagic species such as sharks and turtles swim gracefully. To preserve the delicate ecosystem, accommodation is provided on the neighbouring islands of Mabul and Kapalai and tours must be pre-arranged. The nearest airport to Sipadan is Tawau. From Tawau, it is an hour’s drive to Semporna followed by a 40-minute speedboat ride to the island.

Mabul and Kapalai, Sabah

Situated just 25 minutes from Sipadan, Mabul is another gem in the Sulawesi Sea. However, the seascape in Mabul is starkly different, yet equally stunning. A diversity of tiny marine life makes Mabul a great site for macro and muck-diving. Kapalai is another great location for muck-lovers (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muck_diving ).

In fact, this little island is rated by many diving journalists as one of the best macro-diving destinations in the world. Just like Sipadan, the jumping-off point to Mabul and Kapalai is Semporna.

Cherating Beach, Pahang

Cherating is the location of Asia’s first Club Med. Fringed by the waters of the South China Sea, Cherating Beach offers a quiet holiday amidst a rustic atmosphere. The shore is lined by hotels and resorts catering to all budgets, from backpackers to luxury beach resorts. Just nearby is Kampung Cherating, a tranquil Malay village that sits prettily amidst swaying palms and tropical vegetation. Cherating Beach is about 47km north of Kuantan. Other popular beaches in the vicinity are Chendor, Teluk Chempedak and Balok.

Must do: Go catamaran sailing, try kayaking, windsurf, watch fascinating cultural activities at the Cherating Cultural Complex, visit the Turtle Sanctuary, take a river cruise along the mangroves, watch how crafts are made at the Cherating Village.

Redang Island, Terengganu

Situated about 45km off the coast of Terengganu, Redang Island is the largest of the state’s islands. It is famous for its picture-postcard views and fabulous dive sites. The most popular stretch is the 800m Long Beach. It has one large resort and many smaller chalets lining the shore. Further away on the north-eastern coast is Teluk Dalam Kecil, a sheltered cove that houses a five-star resort.

Must do: Go snorkelling at the Marine Park, explore the 31 dive sites on the island, take a walk along the breathtaking Long Beach, play beach volleyball, and enjoy a jungle walk to see monkeys, squirrels and birds.

Lang Tengah Island, Terengganu

Hailed as one of Terengganu’s best-kept secrets, Lang Tengah is a smaller, more secluded getaway located between the islands of Redang and Perhentian. From the time you arrive, the magic of Lang Tengah will enchant – the waters are crystal clear, the view stunningly beautiful and the atmosphere totally peaceful. There are only three resorts on this island, giving visitors total relaxation and lots of privacy. There are about 15 dive sites around Lang Tengah, all within 10 minutes boat ride from one another.

Pangkor Island, Manjung, Perak

Tucked within this idyllic tropical island on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia are attractions such as the historic Dutch Fort, Batu Bersurat, fishing villages, traditional boatyards, places of worship and popular beaches like Pantai Puteri Dewi, Pantai Pasir Bogak and Teluk Nipah. This island can be explored on foot or by vehicle and its surrounding turquoise warm waters are ideal for swimming, snorkelling, kayaking and fishing. A short boat ride takes you to the privately-owned Pangkor Laut Island. Here, you will find the exclusive Pangkor Laut Resort, one of the world’s top small luxury resorts.

Must do: Savour fresh and delicious seafood, watch boats being built at the boatyards, sample seafood snacks, go for a round-island trip.

For information about visiting Malaysia go to www.tourismmalaysia.gov.my